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What Makes the United States Marine Corps Military Fighting Unit?

Updated on January 16, 2018
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John was a Navy hospital corpsman. He worked the general sick bay, managed a carrier O.R., and treated heat rash, eczema, and dyshidrosis.

United States Marine Corps Dates

Eagle, Globe, and Anchor for the dress uniform: officer
Eagle, Globe, and Anchor for the dress uniform: officer | Source

An Emphasis on Leadership Among All

An Adherence and Respect for Tradition

Many are filled with awe upon sight of the United States Marine Corps marching around in uniform with their heads held high showing a fearless look on their faces. They are often featured in movies about valor in times of war and are true to life heroes, as the news would have it. But it is not enough to say that you know about the Marine Corps completely because the truth is, you have barely scratched the surface. There is more to them than meets the eye, and there are a lot of things to learn before you can understand what really makes the United States Marine Corps a fighting unit.

An intense familiarization with the Marine Corps' history of valor is required of all rifleman (all Marines), while upholding that history is what makes the U.S. Marine Corps such a formidable fighting force.
An intense familiarization with the Marine Corps' history of valor is required of all rifleman (all Marines), while upholding that history is what makes the U.S. Marine Corps such a formidable fighting force. | Source
During WWI, the German army nicknamed the U.S. Marines, the Devil Dogs.The official mascot of the United States Marine Corps, English bulldog Pfc. Chesty the XIV, sits for his official photo at Headquarters Marine Corps Combat Camera in the Pentagon.
During WWI, the German army nicknamed the U.S. Marines, the Devil Dogs.The official mascot of the United States Marine Corps, English bulldog Pfc. Chesty the XIV, sits for his official photo at Headquarters Marine Corps Combat Camera in the Pentagon. | Source

History of the United States Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps was originally founded as the Continental Marines in November 10, 1775. The first members were recruited in Pennsylvania, to serve as landing troops for the Continental Navy. The organization was abolished after the American Revolutionary War in April 1783, but re-established 15 years later. Nonetheless, the Marines celebrate its anniversary on November 10.

Having been formed to provide landing troops, the U.S. Marine Corps has participated in every conflict involving the United States ever since. Prior to World War II, leaders in the United States Marine Corps espoused the importance of specialized landing troops in the future. Marines in the 1920s and 1930s were heavily trained in amphibious warfare. This type of warfare involves United States Marines as beachhead attacking forces supported by Navy bombardment and combined military air forces. This maneuver is the most complicated of all requiring pinpoint timing to cover the United States Marines. It is therefore the most dangerous form of attack. The United States Marine Corps is the supreme amphibious force in the world, and acts as a quick response unit (expeditionary force) to implement United States power abroad.

Enemies of the United States are quite familiar with the U.S. Marine Corps. Their reputation for tenacity, hard fighting, and improvisation has followed them across the world. For example, in World War 1, the German Army called them the "Devil Dogs". The name is still associated with them.

How is the United States Marine Corps Different from other Fighting Units?

Under the direction of the Department of Defense, the armed forces of the United States have four divisions the United States Army, the United States Air Force, the United States Navy, and the United States Marine Corps. Although their main purpose is to secure peace and order within the country's territory, each has specific tasks to take in hand. These tasks, however, are what make the Marine Corps fighting unit stand out from the rest.

The Marine Corps fighting unit serves as the amphibious attack force meaning they operate both on land and water. A United States Marine Air Unit is always part of the expeditionary force and provides CLOSE IN air support. While the US Army is in charge of ground-based military operations, the US Navy of safeguarding the United States coasts and projecting power over the sea, and the US Air Force of commanding the airborne warfare, the US Marine Corps is the primary offensive unit both at sea or on the shore. During a battle, before any of the other units can make their move and take control of their posts, the Marines will do the initial attack, and then stand as guards while the other troops move in. For example, in Korea, Marines were called on to hold the line against North Koreans until large military forces and equipment could arrive.

The United States Marine Corps Training

Men and women who wish to serve in the military go through a series of challenges during recruitment. But before anyone can get accepted to train either in Parris Island SC or San Diego CA, some requirements must be met, which include passing the written examination specifically given to military applicants, and physical analysis by a duly appointed physician. There are slight variations in terms of height and weight requirements for male and female applicants, but everything else is generally the same.

Many of those who have gone through training say that the Marine Corps training is the most difficult thing they ever had to do in their entire life. The training entails very arduous 13-week long boot camps, and formations are done daily including Sundays and holidays. But not only do recruits endure intense physical exertion, they also have to memorize tons of information in order to move on. An example of the rigorous training is the Crucible. This is a 54 hour field exercise where all information and training are tested under strenuous conditions. During the Crucible, forty-eight miles will be marched. As the exercise continues there are martial arts challenges, attacking uphill, navigations courses, patrols, and operations on limited sleep.

Critical Marine War Planning

Because of the futuristic thinking and planning of the United States Marine Corps, a fighting force was available at the beginning of World War II to engage Japanese forces in the Pacific.

The United States Marine Corps earned their reputation in the 18th & 19th century. They carried the US insignia and fought several wars in the Caribbean and Asia Pacific regions. Here are some of the conflicts that the United States Marine Corps has participated in with high distinction: Tripoli, War of 1812, Chapultepec, first Barbary War, Battle of Monterrey, Formosa Expedition, and at least 64 more engagements. The fighting unit doubled in number during World War II and fought heavily against the Imperial Japanese troops. In recognition of their roles in these battles, the USMC War memorial in Arlington, VA was dedicated in 1954.

A lot of other significant events followed, with the US Marine Corps fighting unit often in the forefront. The Vietnam War proved their patriotism when they helped in the successful evacuation of the American embassy in Saigon. The US Marine Corps are also given credit for their participation in the Persian Gulf War that earned Kuwait its freedom from Iraq in 1991. Although the United Nations strives to maintain peace among countries, conflicts still arise, and the Marines are never far from the action.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the Marines Corps has made several important contributions to what the United States is today. Although it may be compared to the other units of the armed forces, it has unique functions that are most notable in times of war. Memorials have been constructed in honor of their heroism, and many are inclined to give Marines a respect that is more than other soldiers receive. Such a dedication of the United States Marine Corps to their duties may be attributable to the rigorousness of their training, or the stringency of the rules of the organization. The U.S. Marine Corps has adopted the saying, "Improvise, Adapt and Overcome". It is to this end that the U.S. Marine Corps focuses on physical and mental fitness, loyalty, dedication to each other, and patriotism. Dedication again is demonstrated in their motto "Semper Fidelis" meaning always faithful. It is a common greeting between Marines - or the shortened version, Semper Fi.

Aircraft carried: Up to 19 Sea Stallions, 26 Sea Knights, or mixed airgroup 6 Harrier jump-jets
Aircraft carried: Up to 19 Sea Stallions, 26 Sea Knights, or mixed airgroup 6 Harrier jump-jets | Source

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© 2014 John R Wilsdon

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    • john000 profile image
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      John R Wilsdon 3 months ago from Superior, Arizona

      I couldn't agree with you more.

      Thanks to you and your son for your service. When you serve in the military, you not only understand the need for discipline, you also learn what the rest of the world is like. As a result, one is less likely to take the U.S. for granted. You and your family be well.

    • Larry Fish profile image

      Larry W Fish 3 months ago from Raleigh

      Always good to read about our military, John. My son is a retired 20 year Marine, having served 3 tours of duty in Iraq. Myself I was in the Air Force during Vietnam, however my time was served in Texas, Florida, and the Philippines. I still feel that the draft never should have ended. I think every able bodied man should serve in the military.